Four teams from the Spanish league (Asobal) are heading to Vigo to contest the 22nd Copa Asobal. As you might expect two of those teams are Barcelona and Atletico Madrid and the other two are not. It’s all set up for a Barcelona-Atletico final but before that there is the small matter of the semi finals to be played.
Today (December 21st, the day the world ends) sees Atlético Madrid play Naturhouse la Rioja at 6pm UK and that is followed at 8pm by Barcelona playing Reale Ademar León. The final is tomorrow at 5.30pm UK. All matches are live and accessible in the UK at Laola1.
Barcelona have taken this title 7 times; Atletico (including in their previous incarnation) 6. Reale Ademar León have two titles to their name but, despite that, the bookies make them only 33/1 to even win their semi final this time around.
With the Men’s World Championship occupying January this is the last club action for these teams until the start of February – hopefully they will be looking to go out with a bang and play some entertaining handball on the way.
Three rounds in and five teams in the Asobal have 100% records. Within that group, Barcelona sit at the top with a goal difference of +34 – their narrowest victory of the year was 26:19 whereas on Friday they polished off Academia Octavio 36:20. The four teams keeping the Catalan lords company are Atletico Madrid, Reale Ademar León, Aragón, and Encantada. The latter two play each other in a couple of rounds time so if they haven’t already lost their perfect records one of them will then.
Meanwhile in Germany … THW Kiel are fourth! Granted this is because they have played fewer games than anyone else but we should all take screen shots of this day to show that these things can happen occasionally. There is only one 100% record in the Bundesliga and that belongs to Rhein-Neckar Löwen who have five wins from five. Joining Kiel in the unbeaten stakes are Fuechse Berlin with whom they drew recently and SG Flensburg-Handewitt who have two wins and a draw from their three games played so far. The table should become a bit more predictable over the next few weeks as the numbers of games played begins to equalise.
A quick look at France shows that the kerzillions euros spent by Paris was well spent. Remarkably after two rounds there are only three teams with two wins – Paris, Montpellier and Chambery. Montpellier own an extraordinary +36 record from their two games. The hotly anticipated first meeting this season between Montpellier and Paris comes this Sunday in Paris at 15:00 CET (14:00 UK). It is live on Canal+ but, as yet, I don’t know if there will be any legal means for watching in the UK.
If you could tear yourself away from Saturday tea time TV there were a couple of live handball matches streaming today. You could have seen Atletico Madrid make it two wins from two at the start of their Asobal season and then washed that down with HSV Hamburg’s come from behind victory at Hanover. Don’t worry if you didn’t, the matches are probably archived for later viewings if such things take your fancy.
Tomorrow there are also two matches, one from the Asobal and one from the Bundesliga. At 4.30pm you can see Fuechse Berlin (it means Berlin Foxes) have a tilt at THW Kiel. Fuechse joined Kiel in the Champions League Final 4 last season but anything other than a victory for the zebras would be a surprise. Then at 7pm it’s Naturhouse la Rioja against Valladolid. Both teams lost their first match but were both top half finishers last season so it should be close.
Head over to here to watch the games. If I can get myself onto a laptop that can tweet *and* stream at the same time I’ll have some live words of almost-wisdom on the Handball Views twitter feed which is @handballviewsuk.
So with grim predictability Barcelona got their domestic season off to a winning start although the sparse home crowd must have been a bit bewildered to see the boys in blue and red stripes trail 5-1 after 6 minutes before the Catalans remembered that shooting on target is a useful skill and headed into a lead by half time they never looked like losing, winning the second half 13:7 for a 26:19 win. Victor Gonzalez topscored for Barcelona with 8 goals from 11 shots.
Now, following their humbling at home in the Supercopa, it’s time for Atletico Madrid to open their campaign. They do so against my favouritely-named team: Naturhouse la Rioja (they seem like a fun bunch too). The match starts at 7pm UK time and is live on Bet365 (who for reference have given Naturhouse an eight goal lead in the betting). Once this match is done we’ll have finished the first round of Asobal matches with only another 29 rounds left to determine which of the big two takes the title.
Stick a quid in a Bet365 account (other bookies are available) and you’ll be able to watch the Catalans begin the defence of their Asobal title. Fresh from their win over Atletico Madrid in the Supercopa the club officially called FC Barcelona Intersport play Helvetia Anaitasuna tonight, starting at 5pm UK.
Don’t expect a close one though: Barcelona won 32:18 and 35:23 in their matches last season last season.
If the Supercopa is a way for Spain’s top two teams to announce their intentions towards each other then Barcelona put their’s forward in neon flashing lights. The Catalans opened up a 7 goal lead midway into the first half and, aside from a period that Atletico really should have capitalised on when the lead could have closed to 1 they never looked like surrendering it, eventually winning 34:31.
Madrid spent a lot of time staring at the officials but it’s hard to see that they were to blame – far too many Atletico attacks ended in suprisingly ineffective shots or in overturned possession. Barcelona were the same efficient unit they always seem to be: some of the faces change but the ethic remains solid and they were worthy winners of their 15th Supercopa title.
Atletico won last season’s match but Asobal went to Barcelona – although Madrid did better in Europe and won the Copa del Rey. So this one match doesn’t really count for anything but in terms of setting up the season it did an excellent job of whetting the appetite.
The Spanish season throws off in style on Saturday with Atlético Madrid taking on FC Barcelona in the Super Copa. Barcelona have taken the Super Cup 14 times and Madrid four (including three times as BM Cuidad Real). The boys in red and white are the current holders and they beat Barcelona in last season’s Copa del Rey – although Barcelona took the main domestic prize, the Asobal title. The bookies make Atlético very slight favourites to win both this match and the league, although it’s likely to boil down to how the two teams do in their head to head fixtures.
Atlético have had an interesting off season with both Didier Dinart and Luc Abalo heading to the newly-flush Paris but they’ve also captured the signature of Ivano Balic. Barcelona were a little quieter over the summer although it might be worth noting that 2002 World Player of the Year Arpad Šterbik joined them from Madrid although that was 10 years ago.
Obviously nobody knows what to expect in the first match of the season but my guess would be for a close game with some nice bits of niggle. The atmosphere should be good though: it’s being played in the 15,000 capacity Palacio Vistalegres. That’s the home of Atlético Madrid.
Atlético Madrid served notice that they will not stand idly by whilst FC Barcelona take the Asobal title or Kiel all the European glory this year. Balić has been MVP in countless international tournaments (six, according to wiki) and is an Olympic and World champion with Croatia. He joins from RK Zagreb having previously spent time in Spain with Portland San Antonio. The official unveiling is tomorrow morning but the Athletico website has the news up now.
And as for why you should care: the video below (not mine I hasten to add) is a nice primer to this most dominant of players …